Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Celebrate a visual artist on the next £20 note

The Bank of England is asking the public to make suggestions as to who should be on the next £20 note. 

It must be somebody British and noteworthy in the field of visual arts.

At the end of this post
  • I'm making my own suggestions
  • I'm asking you who YOU think might be an appropriate person to represent visual arts in Britain.
The new Banknote Character Advisory Committee decided back in 2013 that the next £20 note should celebrate the field of visual arts. That might possibly be something to do with the fact that Sandy Nairne, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery is one of the external members on that Committee! :)
Members of the public will have two months to nominate people of historic significance from the visual arts including artists, sculptors, printmakers, designers, craftspeople, ceramicists, architects, fashion designers, photographers and filmmakers – whose work shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society. The public can nominate characters from within the field of visual arts on the Bank’s website.
It's important to note that the Bank will
  • NOT represent living characters on its notes, with the exception of the Monarch. 
  • NOT identify individuals who would be unduly divisive
  • ONLY include a recognisable and usable representation of an individual within a banknote design. This is because banknotes are designed to be easy to authenticate and difficult to counterfeit. 
Nominations can be made until 19 July 2015. To nominate please visit the Bank of England website and complete the nomination form

Note about the process

Back at the end of 2013, the Bank of England decided that the public should have much more involvement in the choice of people to include on banknotes.


For some reason, Jonathan Jones of the Guardian has once again been told or has chosen to be controversial (others would call it downright rude!) in Should the public vote for the artist on the new £20 note? No way – they've got terrible taste. He's decided that "the people" cannot be trusted to vote because too few do and it is then too easy to sway the vote.

I think he's got it badly wrong. This is not an art competition, nor is it a taste competition!

It's not even a competition! It's about making suggestions so a Committee can get a sense of which individual has the most resonance with the British public. It's not about who painted the best pictures - it's about which visual artists have captured people's imaginations and who are the British public most attached to - and why would they like to see them on their £20 notes.

Here's a couple of examples of what I mean:
I'm certainly not one of the 'nay sayers' like Jones.

Instead I'm one of those who encourage people to vote on the basis that very often people do genuinely come up with suggestions which surprise the art establishment! So......

Who do you think ought to be on the next £20 note?

First - Will you be voting?  I'm going to make a suggestion but my long list is a bit too long at the moment!

Second - Which dead visual artist will you be nominating?

I'm going to start a long list below and will add to it as names get suggested.

The Long List

I've come up with some suggestions.


Charle Rennie Mackintosh


Uncontroversial artists who I would imagine might have a lot of support would include
  • Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) – one of the few who is both an effective portrait and landscape painter - but I can't quite see him getting a groundswell of support
  • Nicholas Hilliard - an interesting choice since the portrait on the note is in effect a miniature and he one of the most famous miniature painters. He's also one of the very few early English artists whose name is well known. I also rather like the idea of this self-portrait being used for the £20 note!
Earliest selfportrait of Nicholas Hilliard 1577
  • JMW Turner - I should think would be a very popular choice - and no worse for that! His youthful self-portrait is also well-known and would make for a good portrait on a bank note.
Self portrait by Turner c.1799
  • John Constable - another popular choice?
  • Stanley Spencer - I should think that aspects of his marital life and unconventional perspective on religion might be a bit of a problem - and put him out of the running.
Stanley Spencer - self portrait 1914
This is the face of the man who painted all those memorable 1st World War paintings
see 'Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War' at Somerset House

I immediately thought of Grayson Perry - but he'd have to meet an unfortunate end very quickly to make him eligible!  Anyway here goes with the rest....
  • Josiah Wedgewood - this is a man who not only founded a very famous British pottery company which exported all over the world. He is also responsible for the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery. I would have thought he's got to be in the running.  His image could also be characterised as if it was a ceramic Wedgewood bust or miniature.
Bust of Josiah Wedgwood
completed in 1864 by Giovanni Fontana (1821-1893),
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England
  • Bernard Leach - a possibility but he doesn't quite have the weight of credentials or popularity behind him - and his face is unknown


    • William Morris - his socialist credentials might put him out of the running re. the uncontroversial front
    Portrait of William Morris, aged 53


    • Charles Rennie Mackintosh (again) - a very familiar image and, I would imagine, a very popular choice. He is, of course also an architect and a crafts person.

    Fashion designer

    • Alexander McQueen - one of the very few to have the weight to compete - but maybe a bit too recent?


    • David Lean springs to mind - and he has a very chiselled face which would be both recognisable and look good on a bank note.


    • Eadweard Muybridge - a face that is totally unknown of a photographer who is very well known. He pioneered studies of motion. However is he uncontroversial given the fact that he shot and killed his wife's lover, but was acquitted in a jury trial on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
    Sequences by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)
    of himself throwing a disk, using a step, and walking


    • William Hogarth - English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist. He has the advantage of covering a number of bases like Mackintosh - however I always think of him as a printmaker. Of course if this protrait were to be used, it would also win over the dog lobby!
    William Hogarth
    • Sir Henry Moore - my reservation with this one is I'm not sure he's well known as a 'face' even if his sculptures are extremely well known and very recognisable
    • Dame Barbara Hepworth - would be in the running but for the fact she's already had a museum named after her!
    I think my favourite so far is Charles Rennie Mackintosh - with Nicholas Hilliard as a close second. I wouldn't mind in the least if it were Sir Henry Moore and they could work out how to make him recognisable.


    John Simlett said...

    Tempted to offer Tracey Emin ... for whatever reasons, she is known by ALL ... but rules herself out by being alive

    Alice Quayle said...

    My favourite British artish is possibly Archibald Knox, the driving force behind 'British Art Nouveau' and the 'Liberty Style' though he was uncredited on most of his work for Liberty. You can see hundreds of his faboulous pieces here ~

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